Vote!–It’s the ‘in’ thing these days

Over 50 million Americans have already voted.  

They have travelled distances and waited in long lines.

They have brought IDs, masks, friends, family–and perseverance.

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered that no county could have more than one mail-ballot drop off location, Texans took this attempt to suppress voting as a challenge–over 5 million voted in the first eight days. Harris County helped things along by tripling its number of early voting sites and extending voting hours.

With a week of early voting to go, over a quarter million Idahoans have voted.

Many, however, enjoy the traditions of going to the polls on election day, entering a booth, and hearing their name called.

One 90-year-old refused my suggestion to apply for an absentee ballot by saying, “Oh, no.  My friends at the polls would all think I was dead.” She then listed her poll workers by name.

But absentee and early voting, especially with extended hours, help many. Some are pushing for a national holiday, but who would get it off? Not doctors or nurses, bus drivers or police, wait persons or store clerks.

I hope today’s students get to vote as much as we did in school. I can’t remember just what our teachers found for us to vote about, but I do remember hands in the air and scribbled jottings on scraps of paper.

Once at a Parent-Teacher Organization meeting a member objected to voting on the prepared ballots by pointing at the person who lost out for chair couldn’t hold any office.  We were about to eliminate one of our best qualified.

The acting chair paused for a moment, then shrugged. “ Please lower your heads and close your eyes.  Raise your right hand to….”

We all laughed–we knew the routine.

Americans vote in many different ways–partisan and non-partisan; by cities, counties, states and zones–dozens of zones. Judgeships always have only one candidate, but primaries are apt to have five.

And we’re constantly tuning the voting process.

Caldwell quickly changed a law last fall so that future council members can win by a plurality, rather than a majority. Run-off elections can be expensive.

The Idaho legislature imposed a new voting law on Boise–and perhaps Nampa–this year. It requires cities with more than 100,000 to elect council members by zone–like school boards. The change will hurt some because some current council members will have to run against one another. Overall, though, it’s a good move.  Zone voting means more diversity and  more interaction with constituents.

A couple of other changes are worth considering. One is “ranked voting” in which voters mark their first, second, and third choices. If their first choice doesn’t make the top three, then it’s dropped, and their vote goes to their second choice. It could save Idaho’s Republicans from fielding candidates that got only 25% of the primary votes.

And I would like to see a system for electing the president where candidates might actually come to Idaho. Red and blue states share the same problem–with a winner-take-all system no votes over 50% count. Four to eight swing states get all the attention.

We don’t have to abolish the electoral college to change that. We just need states to allot  electoral votes according to the popular vote. In every state candidates would be fighting for one more electoral vote, not 4 in Idaho and 38 in Texas.

Make your plan and vote! It’s the ‘in’ thing these days. (And mail your absentee ballot today or see that someone takes it to the Elections Office.)

Elections, vaccine to end this edge-of-our-seats thriller

Elections, vaccine to end this edge-of-our-seats thrillerThese last two weeks before the election seem like the runup to the climax of a thriller movie.  

Will armed bullies take over polling locations?  Will the post office defy the powers that rule it to get the mail out on time?  Will we ever know if Hunter Biden really got millions just for introducing people to his dad?  

And underneath is the pounding rhythm of a pandemic–the elephant in the room that we’re all desperately working to ignore as it rises on its hind legs and prepares to attack. 

I want to believe it’ll be like the Y2 crisis. Remember when many feared that the change from 1999 to 2000 would send all sorts of networks haywire–power, water, phone, dispatch, and banks?  

At some point the fear of a panicking public loomed worse than the fear of computer outages.  About 15% of the country set up to store enough food, water, cash, ammunition and, yes, toilet paper, so they could hole up while hungry hordes roamed the streets and battled for the few bottles of water available. 

And New Years’ came–and went–without incident.

And the history buffs among us could remember those inspiring words of Franklin Roosevelt: ”The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.” 

Today I can’t help wondering just what Roosevelt would have said if he’d realized the economic collapse of the Great Depression would trigger a war taking 70 million lives.   

Maybe, “Fear can motivate us to be aware and prepare for dangers, but we must control it; terror may divide and destroy us.” 

Somehow seeing lines of voters waiting hours to cast their ballots early made me feel hopeful. They didn’t look like they’d be cowered by a few armed bullies asking questions. And I do think post office workers will do their best to get ballots to the polls on time. And I hope neighbors in Ohio are arranging to take one anothers’ ballots to the one voting box in the county. 

Both Democrats and Republicans fear the outcome of the coming election.  

As a Democrat, I worry about dangers I see increasing day by day.  I fear that we’ll do next to nothing to mitigate climate change and end up with an Idaho in eternal drought. I fear differences in neighborhoods and schools will separate us by class and culture so that we fail as a melting pot. I fear the courts will allow the powerful to take away the rights of common citizens, especially workers. And I fear that we will start caring even less about one another than we apparently do about immigrant toddlers separated from their parents.

 I’m not sure what Republicans fear down deep. Some say it is any change.  Some, the loss of white supremacy.   

A recent questionnaire from the Republican party plays to fears of extremism–”budget-busting” federal spending,” “extreme” climate change policies, “dangerous” abortion policies, “increased” gun control. 

It labels policies as “advanced by Democrats” that few Democrats embrace, e.g. extending voting rights to inmates and those under 16. And when “Universal Income” advocate Charles Murray spoke in Nampa, his audience was Libertarians and Republicans. Only one Democratic presidential candidate in 29 supported it.  

And “open borders for all immigrants” has been denounced by Bernie Sanders as “a Koch brothers proposal” designed to cut wages to “two or three dollars an hour.” If Democrats had their way, the United States would be giving trade advantages to countries who treat workers humanely so fewer would risk their lives to come to the U.S. 

Soon, election results and a vaccine will bring an end to this episode. May it go out peacefully and usher in a time when truth and cooperation thrive. 

Poll Watchers needed!

Poll Watching Information: CLICK HERE

Poll Watching Volunteer Sign Up:

From IDP – We need people that are tech savvy, have a tablet or smartphone, and who have data plans they can use. We will not provide hotspots and cannot guarantee that polling locations will have wifi, so poll watchers must have 4G or LTE and be willing to use their data. We are looking specifically for people who can work all day on Election Day. If someone can only work a half day, please try to get them to work in the morning. You can also recruit poll watchers in shifts.

Below is the form we’re using to track our poll watchers. Please enter your volunteers’ information. The deadline to submit names to the County Clerks is 5 p.m. on October 22nd. 

Do you and your legislator agree? Part 2

There is a major mismatch between Idaho voters and the representatives they elect. 

Okay, that is straight out my last column–but there’s more that needs said. 

You see, Medicaid expansion, voter initiatives, local option taxes, and adequate education funding aren’t the only issues where the majority of legislators disagree with the majority of their constituents.  

A survey by Colorado College for Conservation Voters of Idaho indicates 60 to 80% of Idaho voters want something done about issues our legislators ignore: public lands and climate change.    

Access to some public lands has been blocked by wealthy owners of private lands who have closed decades-old roads. After the 2018 legislature passed some serious penalties for trespassing on private land–a third offense could bring a year in jail and a $10,000 fine–families that had gathered for years on lands no longer accessible don’t want to risk charges; they want it made clear that the unauthorized blockages are illegal. The House Committee on Resources and Conversation voted 8-7 to refuse to accept a bill; the Senate committee accepted one but never voted on it.  

 A search indicates that S1317 is the only bill concerning ‘public lands’ printed by the legislature in 2019 or 2020. That may be an improvement over years when legislators were determined that the state take over Federal public lands that there was no way we could maintain, but is no harm the best we ask for?     

 On climate change Colorado College found that over 70% of those polled want the Governor to have a plan to reduce carbon pollution and nearly 60% would like Idaho to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050. 

In March 2019 a House committee held Idaho’s first official hearing on climate change.  Representatives from Hewlett Packard and the Idaho National Laboratory said that we have ample clean energy resources and it is essential we act.  BSU faculty shared what’s happening to agricultural yields, water supplies, and fire damage.   

Rep. John Vander Woude expressed disappointment that so little was known about how change would impact Idaho.And House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding introduced a concurrent resolution to create an interim committee to study what Idaho needs to be doing.  

The resolution failed. And climate change did not come up in the 2020 session. 

Idaho has no plan to deal with climate change and no committee working on one.  

I don’t know of other polls, but voters frequently mention other issues they feel the current legislature isn’t handling well.

Property tax reductions. Even with a homeowner’s exemption, property taxes now cost more than a month’s income for many, especially with over $200 million of school supplemental levies added to the mix. The Senate passed SB1417, but the House didn’t vote on it.     

Minimum wage. Idaho has a greater percentage of workers earning less than $12 an hour than any other state. Four of the six states bordering Idaho have minimum wages higher than $7.25 an hour. No bill was introduced in 2020.   

Legalized industrial hemp. There are 1500 licensed hemp growers in Oregon, 2300 in Colorado, and 0 in idaho. Idaho and Mississippi are the only two states where hemp with less than 0.3% THC cannot be legally grown, processed, or transported.  SB1345 was passed by the Senate, but the House did not vote on it.

Republicans hold 80% of the seats in the Idaho legislature. They not only control what gets passed but also what gets discussed. One-party government is not good regardless of what party dominates.